COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy finally has the roster filled with his own players in his third year in charge.
He's hoping the new faces will help the Aggies bounce back from two disappointing seasons where they missed the NCAA tournament.
Texas A&M went 18-15 last season in its first year in the Southeastern Conference. It ended its Big 12 run by going 14-18 a year earlier, breaking a streak of six straight appearances in the NCAA tournament.
"We've got a different team," Kennedy said. "We've got six new guys, a lot of freshman and sophomores."
Kennedy said his young team has struggled to find consistency early.
"One day we look like we're doing a lot better than we were last year," he said. "The next day we look like we're high school players. We're making young mistakes. So I think that'll be our team for a while, and hopefully we'll mature quickly."
Leading A&M's group of newcomers is junior college transfer Jamal Jones. The 6-foot-8 guard starred at Lee College in Baytown, Texas last season where he averaged 18 points, 5.3 rebounds and two assists.
"Jamal Jones is a guy who can score," Kennedy said. "He's long, thin, can play the two, three and four for us."
Kennedy is looking for Jones to get more aggressive as he adjusts to the team, but believes he has the tools to be a special player for the Aggies this season.
"He's got to continue to get more physical which will come in time, but he can score a basketball, and that's something we're excited about," Kennedy said.
Five things to know about Texas A&M:
HARRIS & ROBERSON BACK: Fabyon Harris and Kourtney Roberson, both starters last season, return for the Aggies. Harris was second on the team last season with 12 points a game, and Roberson scored 6.9 points a game and led the team with 6.6 rebounds a contest. Roberson is a junior who is hoping to help lead the team this season.
"All the young guys buying in," Roberson said. "They are really doing a good job of listening to the older guys, being more focused when they get on the court — asking a lot of questions and everything."
OTHER NEWCOMERS: Along with Jones, the Aggies added four players out of high school and a second junior college transfer this offseason. Joining the Aggies are 6-7 Tavario Miller, Juan Aparicio, who is 6-4, 6-7 Davonte Fitzgerald, Dylan Johns, who is 6-11 and guard Don Thomas. Johns is from England and also competed in rowing in high school. Fitzgerald averaged 22.8 points and 9.2 rebounds a game last season to gain All-State honors in Georgia. Kennedy said he expects all his new additions to see playing time this season.
ZONING OUT: Kennedy doesn't like playing zone defense, but with all the height he added with his new players, he thinks he might have to use a zone this season.
"I've never played a lot of zone, but our team and our length ... guys this year on the perimeter that we didn't have last year or the year before (we have) in numbers," Kennedy said. "So I think you'll see us play a little bit different defensively, and maybe play a little more zone than we have in the past."
THREES PLEASE: Along with changes to his defense, Kennedy expects his team to be different on offense, too. He thinks his team will be more of a 3-point shooting squad than it has been in the past. The Aggies attempted 463 3-pointers last season to 615 by their opponents.
"You'll see us spread the floor a little more, and I'm trying to get used to letting guys shoot more 3s than I've ever done before in my career," Kennedy said. "We've usually been an interior team and patient and more disciplined offensively, but we're hoping to play a little more up-tempo and take advantage of the three-point line because we've got more guys who can spread the floor."
REESE SUSPENDED: Guard J-Mychal Reese was suspended indefinitely from playing in games for violating athletic department rules earlier this week. The school said in a statement Wednesday that Reese can practice with the team and is expected to be reinstated for games in the "near future." Reese appeared in each game last season for A&M with 25 starts. He averaged 6.2 points and 2.3 rebounds a game.